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Tabi

TABI

TABI (late first–early second century c.e.), the slave of Gamaliel *ii. Tabi was known for his learning. During the Festival of Tabernacles he would sleep in the sukkah under a bed, and Gamaliel explained: "Tabi, my slave, is a scholar; he knows that the law of Sukkot does not apply to slaves, and therefore sleeps under the bed" (Suk. 2:1). The Jerusalem Talmud adds that he did so to be able to listen in on the discussions of the sages (tj, Suk. 2:1, 52d). Furthermore, he wore tefillin, usually the prerogative of free men, yet no one interfered with him in view of his well-known piety (tj, ibid.; tj, Er. 10:1, 26a). His master Gamaliel wanted very much to free him, and so when once (accidentally) he put out Tabi's eye he rejoiced thinking that now Tabi would go free (cf. Ex. 21:26–27). When, however, he happily announced this to R. Joshua, the latter replied that he was mistaken as there had been no witnesses, but he had confessed the act himself (bk 74b). In Midrash Proverbs to 9:2 (ed. Buber 62–63) it is related that once the elders were seated before Gamaliel, and Tabi stood serving them. Eleazar b. Azariah then said: "Woe to thee, Canaan, who brought guilt upon your descendants [a reference to Gen. 9:25]. In reality Tabi should be seated, and I should be standing…" (cf. Yoma 87a). When Tabi died Gamaliel received condolences, a rare occurrence in the case of a slave (Ber. 2:7).

The name Tabi (from the Aramaic for "deer"; cf. Acts 9:36) was common to all slaves in the house of Gamaliel, as was the name Tabita to all maidservants (tj, Nid. 1:5, 49b; see also Lev. R. 19:4). Thus the Tabi mentioned in Pesaḥim 7:2 as being the slave of Gamaliel i was almost certainly an earlier one.

bibliography:

Hyman, Toledot, s.v.

[Daniel Sperber]

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